Drinks that weigh you down and what to swap to instead

Move over alcohol, ‘liquid lunch’ takes on a new meaning. 

A new style of liquid lunch threatens to overflow into excess body fat.
With drink sizes sneaking upwards, it is no wonder that waistlines are swelling.

Take a look at your drinks to see if they might be stalling your quest for better health and shape.

Discover some easy swaps to make along the way and tips to improve your health.

Juice bars

  • When you make squeezed or pressed juice at home, you see how much fruit goes into a glass. At a juice bar, the magic often happens out of view so you don’t have a clue. Juice bar drinks contains four, five or more pieces of fruit or possibly an entire pineapple. Ask yourself, would you eat that much if the fruit was still whole?
  • Juice is a great way to get your fruit and vegetable except that the fibre is lost! Avoid juices that are pressed or strained. Choose a juice bar that blends the whole fruit so you get to drink the pulp (fibre) as well.
  • Switch to pure vegetable juice or a vegetable-fruit blend if weight loss is your goal.
  • Fruit smoothies are a hefty drink and provide you with about a third of your daily fuel needs. Basically a meal in itself when you look at the energy content which can be close to 2800 kilojoules or 670 cals. It’s no wonder you feel full after drinking a smoothie but that full feeling doesn't always last that long! If you have a smoothie, call that breakfast or lunch. Don’t have it in addition to other food.
  • Unless you choose pure vegetable juice, go for junior or the smallest serves when buying from a juice bar.
  • Avoid added sorbets and sugar sources—you are better off with pure juice.

Sports drinks

  • Sports drinks contain between 5 and 10% sugar combined with electrolytes (salts) to maximize the absorption of water from the intestine. They are designed for speedy re-hydration.
  • There is no point drinking sports drinks unless you are training very long and hard (for more than one hour) or you work physically out in the heat all day and the sweat is bucketing out of you.
  • A 500 ml bottle contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. Drink one every day and by the end of the week, that’s more than 1 cup of pure sugar or about 250 g sugar (a massive 13 kg or 28 lb in a year).
  • Most sports drinks contain sodium – around 350 mg sodium per litre. If you need to cut back on sodium, avoid these drinks.
  • Diet sports drinks seem a crazy idea but they are sugar-free and calorie-free. For hydration, it’s cheaper and as convenient to drink tap water.

Soft drinks

  • Soft drinks contain about 10 teaspoons sugar (40 to 50 g ) in a standard 375 ml can.
    In a small 600 ml bottle? A massive 16 teaspoons of sugar. Drink one a day, and you consume almost 2¼ cups of pure sugar in 7 days or a massive 23¾ kg (52 lb) in the year. If you upgraded from a can to a bottle each day, that could cause a sneaky weight gain of 4 kg (almost 9 lb) in just one year.
  • Check out my video clip to see how to strip 10 kg in a year.
  • Tonic water is a trap. Although not sweet, tonic contains as much sugar as regular soft drinks.
  • If you want soft drink and need to lose weight, choose varieties labelled diet, zero or low joule.

Energy drinks

  • Energy drinks contain caffeine or guarana laced with about as much sugar as ordinary soft drinks. If you need to lose weight, choose low joule versions of these energy drinks.
  • Excess caffeine may increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can stir up ulcers, trigger irritable bowel and act as a stimulant. Caffeine can help to suppress appetite.

Diet soft drinks – low joule and zero

  • Sugar and kilojoules (cals) are not an issue in these drinks and are fine choices for hydration and weight loss but there is a catch.
  • Dentists stress that these sugar-free drinks, especially the black coloured drinks, remain very acidic and will still damage your teeth.


  • Cordial is sugared like soft drink. It doesn’t matter whether the cordial claims to be natural with a high ‘juice’ content or not – the sugar and energy contents are much the same between varieties.
  • One litre of cordial base (concentrate) contains a massive 2⅓ cups of pure sugar. If your household slurps down a litre bottle of cordial each week, by the end of the year that’s 25 kg (55 lb) of pure sugar that’s disappeared into their stomachs and perhaps has reappeared as tummy fat.
  • Make your cordial really, really weak by adding just enough to just take the taste out of plain water or choose versions labelled low joule or diet.

When water is no longer water

  • Water with added vitamins, minerals and flavour is basically a cordial. Look at the nutrition panel and compare the sugar and kilojoule (cals) content with soft drink. You will probably be shocked. Don’t be tricked. Drink plain water instead.
  • Soda water with ‘twists of flavour’ are often sugared drinks in disguise with about the same sugar and kilojoule (cal) profile as regular soft drink. Don’t be fooled. Look for bottled varieties flavoured with natural lime or lemon essence and zero sugar. Drink plain soda water and add you own squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Tea and coffee

  • In years gone by, tea and coffee were not considered ideal hydrators but now scientists have shown that they deliver your body water for hydration.
  • Be very careful with fancier coffees and teas. Latte, mugaccino, affogato, syrup flavoured espresso, chai tea – it is surprising how much extra milk, cream and other sugars these drinks add to your week. To keep the saturated fat, kJ and cals down, choose skinny or small or long black in coffee.
  • If you add a sachet of flavoured coffee to each day last month, then this might explain that mystery ½ kg (1 lb) you gained! Swap back to filtered coffee with a dash of milk instead.

Check out 7 drinking tips for a healthier body.